NFL: Sherels is Vikings’ Little Cornerback That Could
EDEN PRAIRIE — On his best day, Marcus Sherels stands 5-foot-9 and probably weighed in just after Thanksgiving dinner to get to his listed weight of 175 pounds.
He played in college at the football afterthought that is Minnesota as a member of one of the worst defenses the NCAA has ever seen. So maybe that’s why Sherels has always had a Plan B in mind, ready to implement the minute his career ends.
Truth be told, Sherels has always been Plan B for the Minnesota Vikings as well, and even lower than that when he stepped onto a tryout field in 2010 just hoping for an invite to training camp.
Four seasons later, the Little Cornerback That Could keeps finding ways to stick around.
After a superb showing in the Vikings’ preseason finale last week, and an injury to his biggest competition for the last cornerback spot on the roster, Sherels survived the final cut and is now preparing for his fourth season in the NFL.
“It’s exciting,” Sherels said Monday. “Now I don’t have to worry about all that and can just get ready for Detroit and the season.”
It was his most trying preseason yet. He lost his father earlier in August. He appeared to be slightly behind Bobby Felder on the depth chart going into the last exhibition game. But Sherels responded with a 109-yard kickoff return for a touchdown and an interception against the Titans. The performance, coupled with an ankle injury to Felder, sealed Sherels’ roster spot.
“Marcus really solidified some things in that game, but I don’t want to put it on just that game,” coach Leslie Frazier said. “He had done a good job all the way up to that point.”
The fight and tenacity Sherels has shown in his four years here was patterned after former Vikings cornerback Antoine Winfield, another undersized player who never let shortcomings in height and weight deter him from becoming one of the best tackling cornerbacks the league has seen.
“Antoine was awesome on and off the field,” Sherels said. “He was good to every single person, up and down the roster. He’s a great guy and I’ll always look up to him.”
Winfield spent nine seasons in Minnesota, but was stunned when the Vikings cut him this spring in a cost-saving move. The Vikings tried to bring him back at a lower salary, but the proud veteran would have none of it. He turned down $3 million guaranteed from Minnesota for $1 million guaranteed from the Seattle Seahawks.
But Winfield lost a competition with Walter Thurmond for the nickel cornerback job, then decided to retire after 14 years in the NFL.
The Vikings are short on experienced cornerbacks, so Frazier was asked if they would try to convince Winfield to return one more time.
“He did a lot of good things for us here, had a great career here in Minnesota and really helped me look good at times with some of the plays he made,” Frazier said. “I have a deep affection for him, but if he wanted to play, I’d welcome the opportunity to work with Antoine again if that’s what he wanted to do.
“But if he’s retired, I wish him nothing but the best. He’s been a great player, a great person and he’s going to enjoy retirement.”
If Winfield does stay retired, the Vikings will go into the Sept. 8 opener against Detroit’s powerful passing attack with fourth-year veteran Chris Cook, second-year pro Josh Robinson and rookie Xavier Rhodes as the top three cornerbacks.
“We got some young guys that are going to be playing, but we’ve got confidence they can do it,” Frazier said. “We’ve just got to continue to let them evolve and develop. This will be a big week for them, but they’ll do a good job. They’ll be ready.”
NOTES: DT Kevin Williams (knee) was the only player who did not practice Monday. Frazier said we would discuss injuries on Wednesday, but it appears Williams has a long way to go to be prepared to play against the Lions. ... The Vikings claimed veteran OT J’Marcus Webb off waivers from Chicago to add some depth to their offensive line. ... The practice squad for the first week of the season: WR Adam Thielen, RB Joe Banyard, OL Kevin Murphy, G Travis Bond, WR Rodney Smith, TE Chase Ford, DT Everett Dawkins, DE Tristan Okpalaugo.